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Indigeneity, Institutions of Media Culture, and the Canadian State since 1990


This project investigates the exponential growth of Indigenous media in Canada since 1990, and the role of institutions of media culture in this phenomenon. During this period, Indigenous social movements, state legislation and policy, and media technologies converged in media-producing institutions across the country, contributing to the proliferation of Indigenous film, television, video, and digital media. Indigenous filmmakers, producers, and artists navigate the complex terrain of institutional discourses and practices in the development of their work, negotiations that ultimately shape screen content. This approach intervenes in analytical trends that interpret Indigenous production in terms of oppositional cultural politics, setting this work against a monolithic colonial state apparatus. Such approaches position Indigenous producers as cultural “auteurs,” whose work gives evidence of a shared cultural/political aesthetic, which risks overlooking areas of production not associated with the features of these cultural politics.

Further, juxtaposing Indigenous media with the state does not explain why the state would create policy and programs that support a body of work that would ostensibly undermine its hegemony. This project argues that state support represents an attempt of the liberal pluralist state to “manage” Indigenous challenges to its authority by incorporating Indigeneity into the national cultural fabric. However, examination of the institutional dimensions of production reveals the unevenness and contingency of state influence, as national policy and ideology are interpreted according to a given institution’s cultures and practices, which are in turn navigated by media practitioners and their work. By doing so, this project contributes institutional analysis as a crucial but under-examined lens for the interpretation of Indigenous screen content, and applies it to areas of Indigenous production and institutions of media culture that have not yet had significant scholarly attention, including provincial television and academic research institutions, to begin recuperating these areas into the historical and scholarly record.

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